ETOBICOKE, Ontario – European invader Thundering Blue seeks his first Grade 1 victory as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Grade 1, $800,000 Canadian International Stakes for 3-year-olds and up over 1 1/2 miles on Woodbine’s turf.
The 5-year-old Thundering Blue will make his first North American start following a victory in the Group 3 Stockholm Cup International Stakes in Sweden on Sept. 23. Trainer David Menuisier said the orientation of the turf course in Sweden should set Thundering Blue up nicely for a run at Woodbine.
“Obviously, we don’t have courses as tight as this in the U.K.,” he said. “So, that’s why Sweden was a massive thing for us, to take him over there, because I think the track is quite similar [to Woodbine’s]. We were super pleased with the way he handled Sweden, so we are pretty confident with him handling the track here.”
The 2018 campaign has been Thundering Blue’s best. He’s won three of his seven starts this year, and recorded his first group stakes victory in the Group 2 York Stakes on July 28.
“His Group 2 win at York was magical as it was his first attempt in a pattern race,” Menuisier said. “He spent the whole of his career in handicaps. He went from below-average handicapper to a very talented one in the space of 12 months, giving us the feeling he was a pattern-class horse. The Group 2 win confirmed what we thought of him.”
Following his victory at York, Thundering Blue finished third behind Roaring Lion and Poet’s Word in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York.
“The real pinnacle was to finish in the frame against a regal opposition, beating the winners of the 2,000 Guineas, Dubai World Cup, Dubai Duty Free, Irish Derby, and St James’s Palace Stakes,” Menuisier said.
Thundering Blue, by Exchange Rate
◗ Thundering Blue will leave the gate from post 2 in the Canadian International, and will likely be taken to the back of the pack early on.
“The draw’s not always the biggest thing we think about,” said Kim Johnstone, wife and assistant to Menuisier. “He always pulls himself to the back, anyway.”
Spring Quality, Quality Road
Last 3 Beyers: 55-100-102
◗ The 4-1 second choice will be looking to bounce back quickly off a seventh-place run in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Sept. 29.
“He ran very disappointingly over what was extremely soft ground,” trainer Graham Motion said. “I don’t think he handled it at all. I kind of geared his whole season toward the fall. He’s pretty lightly raced, which makes me feel comfortable running him back fairly quickly.”
◗ He won the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park in June.
Funtastic, by More Than Ready
Last 3 Beyers: 96-102-96
◗ He could be an early pace threat while making his first start since finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 25.
“It was disappointing,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He got a little bit banged up in the race – some cuts, stitches here and there – so maybe that contributed to it, I’m not sure. But he’s back to 100 percent health.”
◗ Earlier in the year, Funtastic stepped up off an allowance win to take the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park on June 30.
Johnny Bear, by English Channel
Last 3 Beyers: 98-95-95
◗ He captured the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes for the second year in a row with an off-the-pace rally under jockey Luis Contreras.
◗ He did not handle the soft going in last year’s running of the Canadian International, but the outlook is good for a firm turf course for Saturday.
Tiz a Slam, by Tiznow
Last 3 Beyers: 94-95-96
◗ He dueled for the lead early with Hawkbill in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf last time out on Sept. 15, but gave way in the late going to finish sixth, beaten just two lengths. He should be up close to the pace again Saturday.
◗ He’s recorded two graded stakes wins this year, including a win at this distance on the grass in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes on July 22.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
Visit DRF.com for additional news, notes, wagering information, and more.